Living car free comes with stigmas. In addition to a few people thinking you don’t have any money or are otherwise underemployed. In a few situations I was accused of not being a committed Hawaii resident, as if I was planning on moving.

If you’re not bothered by this and if you spend the time to learn how to get around without a car, you can save a lot of money and, as some studies show, be happier too.

Thankfully, living car-free is becoming easier and the perceptions about living without owning a car are changing.

Clerk bike hale

The city has been paving the way for bicycles to become more prominent in Honolulu.

That Was Then…

I’ve lived without a car since 2010. I use TheBus and my bike to get around. I choose to make a tradeoff. By avoiding the costs of a car, auto insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, parking and the occasional ticket, I can afford a nicer place in town and still have some left over to take an occasional taxi or fill a friend’s gas tank if I ever need to borrow a car.

My transportation lifestyle hasn’t been easy. I eventually got into the habit of planning trips well in advance to buy groceries or visit places TheBus doesn’t go.

I started shopping online more, even if the product was available at a local supermarket. I started researching different ways to get from point A to point B on my bike that didn’t involve streets I felt unsafe on. I learned more bus routes, even if I didn’t need to use them, just so I’d be prepared.

At the time, it wasn’t a lifestyle I would recommend.

…This Is Now

In 2014, being car-free — or at least, having one fewer car in a household — is much more plausible.

I’ve been able to replace borrowing friend’s vehicles and most of my taxi use by real-time ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft, both of which launched ridesharing in Honolulu in June. And, if I walk eight minutes, I can use either of a couple of Enterprise CarShare vehicles. The company, which launched in September, offers short-term car usage to residents.

In addition, commuting by bike in Honolulu is on the cusp of being more mainstream. Anecdotally, as I bike around, I feel like there are more people cycling every month. Data backs that up: Hawaii now ranks third in total bike commuters, an increase of 94 percent since 2005.

By city, Honolulu is ninth in growth among bike commuters (by percentage) and thirteenth for the growth of bicycle commuting. The City and County of Honolulu has been staunchly committed to bike infrastructure, and this is only going to improve.

Location, Location, Location

I’ve lived in downtown and the Ala Moana-Kakaako neighborhood. In all locations, I’ve been within easy walking access to all of the major bus lines. Essentially, I can get to nearly anywhere in metropolitan Honolulu without transferring busses, and almost anywhere on the island with one transfer. This is a primary factor in making it all work, and why transit-oriented development is so important.

The Costs

Here is what it cost me: I purchased a new Trek 7.2 FX Disc for $736.54 after getting fenders installed, a new bike lock, license and taxes. Unfortunately, my bike was stolen while I was writing this piece so I have reverted to using an older Trek 7000 that I purchased from a former coworker for $275 in 2010.

A monthly fare for TheBus is $60. You can save by paying in cash on the bus if you take fewer than 24 total one-way trips. That said, who carries $2.50 in exact change with them at all times? Over the course of the year, 12 monthly fares add up to $720. If you get an annual pass, it is $660.

I took data from 77 trips I took using UberX and Lyft. By the advertised numbers, UberX’s pricing is slightly cheaper, but both services change their pricing depending on demand. I’ve enjoyed discounted fares and suffered increased fares on both services. Lyft also rounds their pricing to the dollar and says their fares are “10 percent off all the time.”

My average trip is 3.45 miles with a duration of 12 minutes. As advertised, that means my average trip should be $11.58 with UberX and $11.85 with Lyft. My actual average trip price on the two services were just pennies apart, averaging at $12.64. My average cost, using real-time ridesharing services in Honolulu, is $3.66 per mile, or $1.05 a minute.

Enterprise CarShare currently has a very attractive deal: $5 per hour. This includes insurance and fuel. After taxes, three hours comes out to $16.41. Their normal rates, which presumably go into effect in 2015, are between $6 and $11 per hour, and require a $40 yearly membership fee.

I also still use taxis now and then when UberX and Lyft are not available. I generally use Curb or the Uber app to hail a taxi so I can track my usage and the payment happens automatically.

Taxi fares in Honolulu are regulated across all companies. The first eighth of a mile, or first 45 seconds of waiting time, costs $3.10, and each additional eighth of a mile, or 45 seconds of waiting, is $0.45.

For me, in the last couple years, this has averaged out to be about $6 per mile on my average taxi trip. My average total taxi fare without tip was $21.63. I’ve needed to use a taxi about once every other month.

Scaling my costs across a year, and to be extreme, assuming I buy a nice new bike every year:

$737 for a new bike.

$720 for a year of TheBus monthly passes.

$300 for one taxi fare and tip per month for a year.

$400 for an Enterprise CarShare once a month for a year (at 2015 rates)

$1,213 for eight trips with Lyft or UberX each month (96 trips total)

$3,370 per year

Let’s say that in addition to getting a new bike every year, using the TheBus regularly and using a taxi once a month, I use Enterprise CarShare twice a month, or $760 for the year, and real-time ridesharing 12 times a month, which adds up to $1,821 for the year. This is well beyond my current habits, but may make more sense for others. That total comes to: $4,338 per year.

Let’s compare this to car ownership. Many Oahu residents pay more than $4,338 a year in fuel alone. If you have a nicer parking spot in downtown, which can cost $250 per month, you might be paying $3,000 just for that.

So when calculating your own car ownership costs, remember that it is much greater than the sticker price and fuel. Consumer Reports has a method, and remember to add the cost of registration, safety check, insurance, maintenance, repairs, parking costs, and parking tickets and driving violations.

In some cities, the numbers make it make sense to use real-time ridesharing for all trips. In metropolitan Honolulu it may not be at that level yet, but if you use TheBus or a bike for your regular commute and use real-time ridesharing and car-share services only when you need to, the math should work out to go car-free.

The Future

The future of being car-free will become easier.

A new fare mechanism is being evaluated to integrate TheBus, rail, and potentially other services into a single system. This should alleviate the barriers of having to buy paper monthly passes or having the right change.

Real-time ridesharing services are figuring out how to use all the data being gathered by Uber and Lyft to pair people up on trips to split the costs for passengers.

Bikeshare Hawaii is aiming to have stations with bikes from Chinatown to University of Hawaii at Manoa to Diamond Head where you can pick up a bike from any station and bring it to another.

car2go is a car-sharing service that allows you to find and park a car anywhere in the city, instead of in designated parking stalls, no reservation necessary. The service hopes to launch in Honolulu.

With all that is going on, I recommend that homes give up a car and that more people go car-free.

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